Is there much of a future in physical retail?
With rapid retail changes and mass in-person store shutdowns, there is much talk regarding the future of physical retail. The truth is that physical retail may be under intense transformation, but it is still an integral part of the shopping experience.
Innovative retailers must find ways to seamlessly blend their customers' digital and in-store experiences for optimal results - in such a digitized age where everything is now at our fingertips; it's essential to merge the two for the ultimate consumer experience.
Given that 61% of shoppers reportedly still prefer to shop with brands that combine online and physical store options, cleverly combining the two is the smartest approach for many brands.
In order to successfully create this seamless experience, retailers must also align their in-store design with their online presence to ensure the cohesion of their brand reputation.
Seamless multichannel customer experience
Consumers have an expectation for retailers to cohesively blend their online and physical shopping experiences. They want:
- Easily recognizable branding
- To instantly feel reassured by how seamlessly the branding remains congruent from online to in-store
- To experience easy transactions between the two
As well as ensuring that physical store designs are aligned with their online presence, retailers must align inventory, order history, item information, and more to ensure an optimal multichannel experience.
Creating seamless multichannel experiences is highly beneficial to retailers. According to the Harvard Business Review, multichannel shoppers spend 4% more on average every time they visit a physical store and 10% more when making purchases online.
But retailers stand little chance of tapping into these figures if their multichannel design approach begins and ends in the digital space. The design language of a physical store must align with its web experience for a cohesive customer experience. Customers could be thrown off if they are confronted with a tatty store with old equipment such as business access control systems or point-of-sale hardware, when the online experience of the brand is that of a sharp, modern aesthetic.
Physical storefronts are also an opportunity for customers to promote a company for free by sharing in-store photos on social media. However, if the storefront does not match the online web experience, customers will notice the inconsistency, and trust in the brand will be affected.
Cohesive design from storefront to website
Whether you start with the physical store or the online presence, the two must match. For example, businesses that began with a physical store will have no doubt gone to great lengths to best represent their brand throughout the design. Every detail, from the wall color and lighting to the furniture, decor, and staff uniforms, would have been carefully considered in keeping with the aesthetic of the brand to attract the right demographic of customers.
From there, any subsequent website design must match perfectly:
- The same colors
- The same fonts
- The same imagery
Website layouts need to be as easy to navigate as possible to retain the online shoppers' attention. That said, it's essential to do whatever you can to immerse your online shoppers into your brand and store experience as best as you can without their physical in-store presence. Ideally, integrate images from your physical store into your online space for added cohesion - photos of customers having a positive in-store experience are also a great way to bring the two together in the minds of your online consumers.
A frictionless experience
According to a recent PWC Global Consumer Insights Survey, it's conclusive that the less friction experienced in the purchase journey, the more often consumers will choose to shop, and the more they'll spend.
Frictionless shopping refers to the concept of optimizing buyer and seller connectivity to enable shoppers to find and purchase the products or services they desire instantly.
Frictionless shopping technically refers to operational experiences, such as being able to comparison shop on smart devices, purchase goods instantly, access digital loyalty cards, and receive digital receipts. But in terms of branding, the idea of frictionless branding could also be attributed to the experience of the brand itself. Customers want to shop with brands whose every channel or shopping experience melts into one so seamlessly that there is never a moment of 'friction' whereby they must question whether their confidence in the brand is justified.
Reassuringly consistent content
In addition to the aesthetic elements of branding, the information a company shares must also remain consistent across platforms and physical stores to maintain brand integrity.
Make sure that the accuracy, as well as the theme and style of any information you share remains consistent. This can be especially important when it comes to promotions.
Whether it's a sale, an in-store event, membership offers, or seasonal promotions, creating marketing consistency is vital for optimal results. Even if your customer comes directly to the physical store, many shoppers are simultaneously on their smartphones; if your in-store and online offerings do not match, you could confuse and lose the customer.
Furthermore, there are huge benefits to cross-channel promotions. Blending your on and offline marketing not only serves to have one enhance the other, but some approaches can drive traffic to both, such as promoting an online competition in physical store locations. But, again, any discrepancy in branding aesthetic or content theme and style can deter consumers from responding positively to your promotion, however great the deal may appear to be.
Maintaining brand consistency across all platforms must also extend to the social media space. Whatever social media platforms you choose to cultivate a presence and following on, you must maintain your branding both aesthetically and thematically - keeping all colors, fonts, language styles, and promotional details identical.
It all starts with consistent branding
These examples of cohesion between physical and online stores form integral components for successful business performance across the two. Still, their power to attract and retain customers is severely negatively impacted when there is no alignment of branding.
No amount of seamless multichannel or frictionless shopping experiences will earn or maintain consumer confidence without brand alignment across all business presence.